In another post, I lauded Paul Harvey’s “So God made a farmer” speech for its message. Mining it for rhetorical ore in this post feels a little sacrilegious…almost like making an ad out of it. Wait. I didn’t mean that. After all, 100 million people were rewarded with that speech while watching Super Bowl XLVII. (Itself notable for the Brothers Harbaugh on opposing sidelines and the Superdome’s no-lights game-stopper).

The tap dance of beer ads during the game is usually gratifying, but that Dodge commercial was reason to raise a glass to the advertising profession and the nation’s farmers (barley and hops growers, natch).

You don’t have to be a word nerd to appreciate this super ad. Start with alliteration. Harvey begins with a “planned paradise,” and keeps alliterating.

night with a newborn; shape…shoe; harness out of haywire; sacks…shoe scraps; ride the ruts; pink-combed pullets. Alliteration is the easiest part of speech to witness in others’ writing and wield in yours.

After alliteration, antithesis (opposition) is another identifiable device that Harvey employs.

“get up before dawn; stay past midnight; strong enough…yet gentle enough (twice); newborn colt…watch it die; stop in midfield and race to help; straight…cut corners; soft strong bonds.

Harvey repeats “So God made a Farmer” six times, summing up his paragraphs. Repetition of the statement or clause at the end of each thought is epistrophe. (pronounced e PI stro ‘phe). Learning the terms isn’t the thing. Knowing it exists and using it in your writing is the thing.

Epistrophe picks up the endings, but what about the repetition at the beginning? Harvey does this with anaphora ( an-AFF-or-a): “God said, I need somebody.”

He uses “somebody” or “I need somebody” ten times.

In The Elements of Eloquence, Mark Forsyth calls anaphora, “the King of rhetorical figures” due to it’s ease of use, but he warns it can be too powerful. “With anaphora,” he writes, “ people always remember the opening words, but forget the rest.” In Harvey’s case, people remember the epistrophe, “so God made a Farmer.” Start typing in your tool bar, task bar, search bar, sand bar, or tiki bar and watch it propagate.

Parataxis does the chores (literally and figuratively) in Harvey’s speech. Mark Forsyth says, “Parataxis is like this. It’s good plain English. In one sentence. Then it’s another sentence. It’s direct. It’s farmer’s English….It’s all subject verb object.” Harvey used parataxis, reeling off multiple clauses of subject verb object without conjunctions (asyndeton).

“I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.”

Harvey in one instance uses a device Roy H. Williams calls the “verb avalanche.” It rolls along. It’s poetry posing as prose.

“Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish…and finish.”

This post is a “Danger: Words at Play” warning for rhetorical parts of speech—even though we’re only wading in the shallow end. If you’re interested, take on a few fathoms of Forsyth or Jay Heinrichs (thanks, Jeff Sexton). Remembering the terms isn’t important; but using the devices can make your writing or speaking more memorable. Paul Harvey’s speech is meaningful for its message; masterful for its figures.

I thank Dodge for airing it during Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. As Paul would say, “Goooood-day!”

Paul’s Speech

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker”

—so God made a Farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board”

— so God made a Farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild; somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it”

— so God made a Farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps; who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then pain’n from tractor back,’ put in another seventy- two hours”

— so God made a Farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds, and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place

— so God made a Farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.”

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church; somebody who would bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says that he wants to spend his life “doing what dad does”

— so God made a Farmer.

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